By T. Scott Boatright
SIBLEY — Lincoln Preparatory School battled through a sluggish start before holding off a furious finish by Lakeside Friday night at Warriors Stadium as the Panthers defeated the Warriors 44-27.
The Panthers struggled early facing heavy pressure from Lakeside’s defensive front, a factor that was made worse early in the first quarter when Lincoln Prep center Javion James went down with a broken fibula and is out for the rest of the season with surgery scheduled for Wednesday.
“That was something we had to adjust to,” Hall said. “He’s just a sophomore but that’s a big loss. It’s really unfortunate because he’s been doing a good job for me.”
But still the Panthers gradually took control, building as much as a 24-point advantage before having to hold off a late rally attempt by the Warriors.
“It was a pretty good win but we still made too many mistakes that extended the game at the end, we did what we were supposed to do and managed to get the win,” Hall said. “I’m satisfied, but I know we could have done better.”
Lakeside struck first on a miscue by the Panthers when a snap flew over the punter’s head. Punter Emanuel Bryant grabbed the ball but it was quickly stripped by the Warriors’ Jake Wilkens before CJ Watt scooped and scored on a 20-yard return that put Lincoln Prep behind 7-0 at the 1:54 mark of the opening stanza.
The Panthers countered minutes late as quarterback Ta’Rell Simmons scrambled before firing a 14-yard scoring strike to Chancy Harper, who came of the backfield to make the catch that cut the Warriors’ lead to 7-6 with 11:49 remaining in the first half after the point after kick bounced off the right upright and then the crossbar before tumbling back toward the playing field.
Lincoln Prep’s second score came via Simmons’ leg as the senior dropped the shotgun snap before picking it up and outrunning everyone to the right pylon for a six-yard touchdown run that made it 12-6 in favor of the Panthers with 2:56 left in the half after a two-point conversion run failed.
After holding the Warriors to a three-and-out series, the Panthers pushed their halftime lead to 18-7 after Simmons again scrambled before hitting Braylin Mayfield on a 21-yard scoring strike with nine seconds left in the second quarter.
“He’s the key to our success,” Hall said of Simmons. “He’s able to use his legs to make plays. He kept his eyes downfield and threw the ball off the run really well tonight. He threw three touchdowns while he was on the run, so I don’t have too many complaints about that.”
The Panthers took firm control on the next play from series as Dmitry Payne, who has scored on multiple kick returns this season, did it again as he raced 65 yards to paydirt to push the Lincoln Prep lead to 25-7 on the kickoff opening the second half.
Lincoln Prep pushed its lead to 31-7 at the 4:12 mark of the third quarter as Simmons scrambled before hitting Harper on a 53-yard touchdown pass.
Lakeside cut that lead to 31-14 with 37 seconds remaining in the third quarter as Ashton Stewart bulled his way up the middle on a 12-yard scoring scamper before the Panthers countered with a 27-yard touchdown pass from Simmons to Jamarion Buggs with 10:27 remaining in the contest.
Simmons, who accounted for almost 350 yards of offense, tallied his final score on the ground as he ran up the middle before cutting left en route to a 30-yard scoring scamper that put Lincoln Prep on to 44-14 with 6:42 remaining.
But Lakeside wasn’t done. The Warriors scored on a 19-yard scoring strike from Jacob Whitehead to Kevin Johnson to cut the Panthers’ lead to 44-20 before Stewart, who totaled 159 rushing yards in the contest, powered his way to paydirt for a second time on a 30-yard scoring scamper with 1:30 remaining.
“He was really tough to stop,” Hall said of Stewart. “He’s real stocky and strong and runs through tackles. But we didn’t tackle him well. We didn’t get to the ground and get him around his ankles. So he made some big plays in the end.”
Lakeside then recovered an onsides kick with 1:16 remaining but only managed one first down before turning the ball over on downs, allowing the Panthers to go into the victory formation and kneel twice before the final horn sounded.
“We played well in the middle,” Hall said. “But we didn’t play like we should have to start and to end the game. I’ll take the win. But we have to keep getting better and not let those kinds of things happen.”
Photo: T. Scott Boatright
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